TEL AVIV – Behind the scenes, the Obama administration has assured the Palestinian Authority it will not recognize new Israeli housing planned for a section of eastern Jerusalem as being a part of the Jewish state during future negotiations.
A senior Palestinian negotiator speaking to WND on condition of anonymity said that in light of the new housing developments, White House officials reiterated to the PA their policy for final status talks on the future of Jerusalem.
The negotiator said the U.S. under Obama continues to back the so-called Clinton parameters, which means that Jerusalem areas where Arabs predominately reside will become part of a future Palestinian state regardless of a Jewish presence there. The parameters call for predominately Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem to become part of Israel.
Under the Clinton plan, utilized during Israeli-Palestinian talks in Camp David in 2000, some areas of Jerusalem would become a mishmash of Israeli and Palestinian zones.
The PA negotiator’s statements were referencing a plan for Israel to build 2,610 new homes on empty lots in Givat Hamatos, a Jerusalem neighborhood in the eastern section of the city where Palestinians want to build a future state.
The Jerusalem Municipality approved the project in December 2012. The Israeli government has conducted an extensive legal survey of the land, which is largely state-owned and has even given Palestinian families notice to file any counter-claims in court if private individuals believe they own property in the area.
Israel considers eastern sections of Jerusalem to be part of its capital. The government here sees the housing project as an expansion of normal Jewish development in the city.
The new construction plans have prompted a diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Israel.
In an interview airing Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed a recent uncharacteristically harsh White House rebuke of the Israeli construction project, saying the Obama administration’s criticism goes “against American values.”
Last week, immediately following a meeting between Netanyahu and President Obama, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki and White House spokesman Josh Earnest released nearly identical statements slamming the construction, even saying the housing plans could distance Israel from its “closest allies,” a clear euphemism for the U.S.
“This step is contrary to Israel’s stated goal, and it would send a very troubling message if they proceed with tenders or construction,” Psaki said.
She claimed the new housing project will “call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement.”
“This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations,” she said.
White House spokesman Earnest stated the development “will only draw condemnation from the international community.
“It also would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians,” he said.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Netanyahu said he was “baffled” by the U.S. criticism, stating the American position “doesn’t really reflect American values.”
“It’s against the American values. And it doesn’t bode well for peace,” he said. “The idea that we’d have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace; I think it’s anti-peace.”
Continued Netanyahu: “What we are being criticized for is that some Jewish residents of Jerusalem bought apartments legally from Arabs in a predominately Arab neighborhood, and this is seen as a terrible thing.”
Netanyahu explained Arabs routinely purchase property in Jewish neighborhoods and that this is a welcome development in Israel. He said the Jewish purchases were no different.